This tiny chapel, deep in the Hampshire countryside, was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Louis Behrend in 1926 as a memorial to Mrs. Behrend's brother, H. W. Sandham. It was built to the specifications of the artist Stanley Spencer, to house a series of murals depicting daily life in a military hospital and behind the lines in Greece during the First World War. The chapel and murals took 6 years to complete.
The Sandham murals appear as a modern counterpart to Giotto’s murals at the Arena Chapel in Padua, where every possible surface is covered in murals of a continuous theme. The murals in Sandham Chapel aren't horrific depictions of trench warfare, but are more on the theme of companionship in war and Spencer's personal experiences. Spencer was a conscientious objector to the war, so he served as a medical orderly in Beaufort hospital and in the Macedonian Campaign. Soldiers are seen picking bilberries, filling waterbottles and cooking breakfast in the open. No weaponry is shown, reinforcing the pacifist nature of the work. There are religious overtones throughout, for instance, the soldier's capes look like angelic wings. The centerpiece on the altar wall is his masterpiece, The Resurrection of the Soldiers, which depicts youthful soldiers rising from their graves in a military graveyard, helping each other from the ground. A crowded picture ground and flattened perspective heightens the symbolic charge, the otherworldliness. This perspective combined with Spencer's painting style of overly large, fleshy bodies and flat colour looks back to a more renaissance style - compare Spencer's Resurrection with Michaelangelo's Resurrection in the Sistine Chapel.
There is no artificial light in the chapel, which means the viewing experience will change with the weather. Have a picnic in the orchard, look at the views across Watership Down, and spend a long time in the chapel. Then go to the Carpenter's Arms across the road, and think about what you have seen.
- 6th March - 28th March: 11am - 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.
- 31st March - 31st October: 11am - 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
- 6th November - 28th November: 11am - 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.
Sandham Memorial Chapel,
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